Check-in for Allegiant is closed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday when the airline does not offer flights from Dayton. The loss of some additional Allegiant flights from Dayton is adding to the decline of passengers using the Dayton Airport over the past several years. TY GREENLEES / STAFF
Photo: Ty Greenlees
Photo: Ty Greenlees

Allegiant switch would decrease flight choices at Dayton airport

Allegiant Air’s potential transition to seasonal flights at the Dayton International Airport would be a detriment to the regional airport already impacted by a changing industry, but it isn’t the worst case scenario, an aviation expert said.

Allegiant plans to put a Sunday and Thursday flight from Dayton to Punta Gorda on a “seasonal hiatus” at the end of this month. Two other flights to St. Petersburg/Tampa and Orlando/Daytona Beach will go on a seasonal break later this year, a spokeswoman told the Dayton Daily News.

The Dayton airport has not been officially told that the latter two flights will go on break, said director of aviation for the airport and city Terry Slaybaugh. The airport was told the decision is expected to come later this month.

“We are still under the understanding that Allegiant is still evaluating and we won’t know anything further until the end of April,” said airport spokeswoman Linda Hughs. “We are still marketing the Orlando flight…we want to continue to show them that the community is loving these flights and filling up these flights.”

It’s not uncommon for Allegiant to operate seasonal flights, Hughs said.

The ultra-low-cost carrier caters to leisure travelers and adjusts routes accordingly, Allegiant said. The Dayton flights will be reevaluated later this year.

But Dayton is primarily a business airport with business fares, Slaybaugh has said. As the only low-cost carrier, Allegiant’s traffic was about 5% of Dayton’s total for 2018, according to a Dayton Daily News examination of the airport’s records.

Allegiant is the only low-cost carrier remaining at the Dayton airport after Southwest left in mid-2017. The average cost of a ticket has been inching higher over the last several years as the number of flyers traveling through the airport has dropped.

Last year, 899,620 people boarded a plane in Dayton, down from 950,620 in 2017 and down from 1,465,480 in 2008, airport data examined shows.

Meanwhile, the average fare has been on the climb, jumping from $341.61 in the third quarter of 2009 to $420.53 in the same quarter of 2018. Dayton’s fare is roughly $73 higher than the nation’s average of $343.28 for domestic flights, according to the Department of Transportation Statistics.

Losing the flights, even seasonally, will have an impact on the airport and surrounding economy as fewer travelers heading to the Dayton airport will eat into revenue, but it could be worse, said Russell Mills, a political science professor at Bowling Green State University who specializes in aviation policy and economic impact.

“Anytime you lose a flight it’s not good,” Mills said. “But if you’re going to lose one of the flights at Dayton, this wouldn’t be a bad one to lose because the economic impact would be a little less than some of your connecting flights.”

Most passengers on the flights are outbound, heading to vacation destinations or returning from them, Mills said. Only a small percent would be travelers coming into the Dayton community, spending outside dollars in the area.

Slaybaugh said he’s glad to hear it called a “seasonal hiatus” because that implies the airline will come back even if it decides not to extend service to use resources for a different location in the meantime.

A traveler on Tuesday said she was concerned about the possible changes.

“This airport is very important to us. We use it frequently and I’d hate to see anything hamper any people’s ability to use the Dayton airport that would push them to maybe use Cincinnati or Columbus,” said Dayton resident Nila Getter, who was at the airport Tuesday.

The Dayton airport has been particularly disadvantaged, along with other regional airports, by the changing aviation industry, Mills said. The consolidation of airlines has moved hubs and capacity to larger cities, adding to a pilot shortage that impacts regional carriers like Dayton-based PSA Airlines that operate at Dayton-sized regional airports most.

Airlines are also pulling flights as they replace smaller planes with larger aircraft. The seats count would remain the same, but travelers will have fewer flight options.

“For a community of its size and given its market position, I actually think that the team at Dayton has done an excellent job of keeping, as much as possible, the air service they have,” Mills said.

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